Friday, September 16, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-September 2011

Well, it appears that I have, officially, missed GBBD which is hosted on the 15th of every month over at May Dreams Gardens.  I am not going to let that stop me though!

As it turns out, one extra day was all that my rose needed to open up all the way, so I think it was meant to be.
"Mardi Gras (Jacfrain)"

This is not necessarily the best picture that I got of my plumeria, but it is the best picture that I got with Mocha lounging stealthily in the background.

My Ice Blue plumbago blooms all the time, and so the poor thing hardly ever gets a shout-out here, but these are the first blooms that it has put on since the severe pruning that it got last month, so I figured I would show them off here.

I still have one tiny patch of lobelia that is hanging in there.

My Hardy Ice Plant is shrugging off this hot end-of-summer weather we've been having without even breaking a sweat.

My snap dragons look like they're having to put forth a little more effort, but they still have a few blooms hanging on as well.

My recently-planted lavender is showing itself to be quite hardy so far.  It survived the transplant and subsequent heat wave/lack of rain/poor watering skills of its owner to come back with a whole new blush of flowers in the last few days.  I almost clipped all the stalks off after they bloomed, but I'm glad I didn't. As you can see on the middle flower, the new growth appears at the tips, on top of the spent blooms.

My golden shrimp plant, whom I have dubbed Bob Fosse (see last month's post and comments).  Jazz haaaands!

My red ginger has gone from one big bloom to several smaller ones. I am following its development for an upcoming Progression Obsession post. 

Of the 15 spider lilies that I have in my yard, this is the only one blooming right now.

My rosemary is blooming more than usual.

My orchid has taken a little time off, but it's getting ready to come back to work.

And, as always, my Blue Daze could be counted on to make an appearance, even if this was the ONLY bloom it had to show today.

As always, thanks to Carol for providing an excuse for all of us gardeners to get out into our gardens and show off our prized possessions companions. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-August, 2011

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Everybody!  With our yard freshly pruned and August being one of the hottest driest months around here (unless we're getting rain from passing tropical storms) I wasn't sure what I was going to find today, but I managed to do OK!

Probably suffering the most from the recent lack of rain (and my poor watering skills) is my Evolvus glomeratus (Blue Daze), but shriveled or not, it's still putting out some lovely color.

Winning the award for "Best Attendance" is my golden shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea.  It always shows up, never complains, and gets the job done with nice flair but little drama.  If I had to hire any of the plants in my yard, this would be the one.

To be fair, my lantana probably does the same thing, but it's always buried under my variegated hau plants, where I can't see it.  

I have a few red gingers that are in pretty nice form today.  They show up pretty consistently as well, but sometimes they look like they need to go back home, put on a clean shirt, and comb their hair.  Not really "front of the house" material, I'm afraid.

My white spider lily, Crinum asiaticum, was among the plants that got a pretty severe pruning yesterday, but the flowers are hanging in there. 

The creamy white flowers and the pretty pink bracts of my bouganvillea come in a close second for "Best Attendance".  

I've still got a few snapdragons...

...and some lobelia.

Another victim of the severe pruning, my variegated hau is being a real trooper, seeing as how these are the trimmings that are sitting in our truck bed, waiting to be hauled away.  

The newest addition to my yard, lavender.  I love the smell, but I can only seem to pick it up peripherally.  If I stick my nose right into the leaves or flowers, I can't smell anything, but as soon as I start to move away, I can catch a faint waft.  

Although they're not much to look at, the night-blooming jasmine comes to life at night and often fills the whole front of our house with its heady aroma.

This poor little guy, Cuphea hyssopifolia (False Heather/Mexian Heather/Hawaiian Heather) rarely gets any love, even though it blooms year-round.  It tends to get a little leggy and overwhelmed by all the things that are planted above it.

You know I'm getting desperate when I start taking pictures of my rosemary.

I love the hot pink and bright yellow of my hardy ice plant.

This time last month, my Agapanthus was just getting ready to bloom, and I was wondering what the weird little nubbins were that were sticking out about half-way down the stem.

Well, it turns out they were fairly normal flowers-to-be.  

Possibly my most mysterious bloomer is my Texas sage.  Like the drought-tolerant, desert plant that it is, it seems to go from zero flowers to fully-formed, open flowers overnight.  I have yet to watch a bud develop on this plant.  I think I might have to schedule a watering and photography stake-out some day to see how these flowers appear.  If I do, you know I'll post the riveting results here!

I hope you managed to find something blooming in your August gardens and that you didn't pass out from the heat while looking.  To see what others found blooming in their yards today, visit our Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day host, Carol, at May Dreams Gardens.  Thanks, Carol!  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-That Day in September

That Day In SeptemberThat Day in September by Artie Van Why--When the author contacted me with a request to review his book, I was immediately interested because I've never really read anything about September 11th.  I mean, of course I've read news articles, seen survivor and hero stories on TV, and I've seen the events of that day incorporated into other literature; but I've never really read any stories about what it was like just to be there that day as an ordinary citizen.  Artie Van Why didn't miraculously escape from above the wreckage, he didn't heroically save anybody's life, and he didn't lose anybody close to him that day.  Like so many other New Yorkers, he was just there, living his life like he always did, and then the world changed.  He witnessed all the terrible things and felt all the shock and confusion that everybody else did, and this is his story about that day.

The book is short--only 87 pages--and Van Why manages to give enough background information for the reader to get a feel for who he is and how he ended up where he did that day without overshadowing the rest of the story. The first few chapters switch back and forth between the author's background story and the events of September 11th, and I didn't feel like it flowed well; I think he would have done better to stick with a strict chronological telling of the story, but this was a minor sticking point with me, nothing irrecoverable.

I think this story will resonate with a lot of people.  People who weren't there can still relate to the feelings of shock and disbelief, the helplessness we all felt watching the events unfold on the television.  I think at some point, we've all wondered (and then failed to adequately imagine) what it was like to be there...and then put it out of our minds and gone about the rest of our day.  Artie Van Why was there, and he wasn't able to put it out of his mind.  Initially, he performed his story as a one-man theater piece; this was his way of telling his story, getting it all out there, connecting with others who couldn't forget.  Eventually, he turned his story into a book, in part to make sure that the rest of us don't forget either.

Something that surprised me was that the author managed to bring this story home for me in a way that nothing else ever really has, and it was through the small detail of describing the World Trade Center plaza  where he used to take his lunch breaks or drink his morning coffee.  I've never been to New York, so the only mental images I have are of the hustle and bustle of New York--the tall buildings, all the people on the sidewalks, the cabs, Wall Street.  With all its millions of fashionable, never-sleeping, corporate-lunching people, New York always seemed so other-worldly.  Eating lunch in a plaza, enjoying a few minutes of sunshine, watching the tourists take in the sights that you've come to regard as part of everyday life?  I could relate to that; I finally had a way to relate New York life to my island life and suddenly I could really imagine the contrast of living your life one minute and the world falling down around you the next in a way that I hadn't been able to before.

While this book certainly serves as a reminder of the tragedy of that day, I was struck by the fact that it also serves as a reminder of how much we all pulled together as a nation.  Although Van Why didn't set out to chronicle any particular heroism, he still managed to highlight the ways in which the citizens of New York reached out to one another to show support in a thousand little ways.  Everybody came together as neighbors, as fellow citizens and united in support of one another. Looking around at the political climate in the country right now, I feel like we have fallen so far from that, and Van Why's book serves as a good reminder that we're all in this together and maybe it wouldn't hurt to take a little better care of each other while we're all still here.

As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, I think this would be a fitting book to read as a tribute to those who died, to those who lost loved ones, to those who tried to save them, and to all the people who were there that day to witness all the tragedy first-hand.

Thank you to Artie Van Why for sending me a copy of his book.  For more information about the author and his book, you can visit his Facebook page, his Amazon author page, and his Goodreads page.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wherein I Summarize my Previous Whiny Post and Ask for Your Help

OK, so, I sat down to write a book review and it quickly devolved into me whining about how I get a lot of headaches because I spend too much time in front of the computer because I have no discipline.  This has resulted in increasingly longer periods of absence from the blogosphere, and it makes me feel like a bad blogger.  As nerdy as it sounds, I came to the conclusion that I need to draw up an actual schedule for myself and stick to it because otherwise I am too dumb to not keep giving myself headaches.

Here's where I could use your help though, fellow bloggers.  Does anybody else out there do this?  How do you break up your time?  Do you break up your on-line activities by day--writing blog posts on Monday, reading/commenting on blogs on Tuesday, running errands on Wednesday, catching up on current events/news on Thursday, etc.--or do you do all of these in a day and just allow, say a certain amount of time for each?  Any other hints, tips, or tricks?

As a good-faith gesture (Ha!  I almost typed "good-faith jester), I am going to hit "Publish" and then I am going to walk away from the computer for the night instead of starting in on the book review that I didn't get done earlier.  Even though I really just want to get the review done now that I've finally decided to buckle down and do it.  'Cause, you know, there's no telling when I'll get back to it now...see, this is how I get myself into trouble.

OK, I'm going.    

Trying to Find Balance...and a Little Bit (OK, a lot) of Whining

Seriously, this is long and whiny, and I'm going to post a two-sentence (OK, maybe two-paragraph) summary here in just a minute anyway; but if you feel like sticking with it, enter at your own risk.

Wow, I just realized that I am over half-way through my reading year...well, half-way through the year, period, but...anyway, I have only reviewed four books this year.  That's pitiful.  I just haven't been very motivated to do any reviews lately.  Part of it is probably because I haven't read that many books that I feel all that strongly about; but, also, I have been having a really hard time being a good judge of how much time I spend in front of the computer, and I keep debilitating myself with headaches.

The thing is, I can feel when I've been sitting in front of the computer for too long--I start getting this weird eye pressure and pain between my eyebrows and it sort of wraps all the way around to the back of my head--and I know I should stop then, but if I'm in the middle of blogging, I'll try to finish my post or I just want to check this one more thing on email or I just need to work a little bit on this spreadsheet or I'm just going to catch up on a couple more blogs and wait! What's this headline about?? Etc.

The other thing is, I think the eye pain sets in a lot like other muscle aches.  You know how you get that two-day soreness after you've worked out really hard?  Like, the day you workout, you might feel really exhausted, but you're not really sore and the next day you're starting to feel it a little bit and by the next day, you can't get your own cereal because it's inside the top cabinet, and it hurts to reach up and open the door?  I think it's kind of like that.  I'll over do it one day, and the next day I'm like, Hey, I feel OK, I'm going to go sit in front of the computer some more or, worse yet, play on the iPad for a little while (add a teeny tiny bit of nausea to the above symptoms...yeah, I know!); and then the next day, I'm out with a dull ache in between my eyes for an entire day.  Sometimes it gets so bad that I actually can't physically exert myself at all because it just intensifies the headache so much.  And I mean AT ALL.  Like, the pressure required to squeeze the handles on my pruning shears to trim my flowers causes the blood going to my head to throb and exponentially increase the pain in my head.

I know there is an easy solution for this:  Don't spend so much time in front of the computer.  It's just such a vicious cycle though.  If I'm out of commission for a day or two with a headache, I might be pretty good at staying away from the computer for an additional day or two after that, but then I feel like I have to catch up, so the next time I sit down at the computer, I'm behind on my blog and I want to catch up on the news and I want to see what's going on with my stocks and I need to see what everyone's up to on Facebook and Twitter and, now, Google+, and, Oh!  Headache!

I think part of the problem is also my prescription for my glasses.  I need to get in to my optometrist and see if he can tweak my glasses a little bit, and that's another thing I hate doing.  Just once, ONCE, I'd like to get a new pair of glasses or contacts and have them be right the first time.  The optometrist can only fiddle around with my prescription so much, and at some point I might just have to go back to the ophthalmologist for a whole new round of, "Which one is better, A or B?...A?...or B?" "They're both about the same." "No, one of them should definitely be better." "OK, let me see them again...." "Don't think about it; just answer."  Well, let's see, if I stare at the screen without blinking, it's A.  If I blink, it's B.  If I blink a couple times in rapid succession, it's A...or B.  I DON'T KNOW!  THEY BOTH LOOK THE SAME!  WELL, OK, NOT THE SAME, DIFFERENT, BUT NOT IN A BETTER/WORSE KIND OF WAY, JUST IN A ONE'S-BLURRIER-IN-A-DIFFERENT-WAY KIND OF WAY AND IF I ANSWER THIS WRONG I'LL HAVE TO  WALK AROUND FOR A COUPLE WEEKS FEELING LIKE SOMEBODY'S TRYING TO PULL MY LEFT EYEBALL OUT OF MY HEAD WHILE ALSO TWISTING IT JUUUUUST A LITTLE BIT!

And if any of you well-meaning people out there pop in with a "Why don't you just get LASIK?" I will come through the screen and punch you in the face.  Nothing personal.  I know all the same people you do who have had it done and have said it's the best thing they've ever done EVER; I'm just not ready to have anybody laser my eyeball open just yet, OK?        

So, vision issues aside, I'd appreciate any advice.  Although mine are largely self-inflicted, I know I'm not the only one with issues balancing virtual and real life.  I could just sit down, write my blog, post my tweets, and leave, but that just seems rude.  Besides, where's the fun in that?  I want to read your blogs and follow your interesting links and leave comments on your posts too.  (And, OK, yes, have you do the same for me!)  How do I do all that without making myself miserable?  I know it's mostly just an issue of discipline--I just need to say, "OK, one hour(...or whatever) today and that's it!" but the question is, what do I do in that one hour?  Do I only visit my book bloggers on Monday and my garden bloggers on Tuesday and work on my personal stuff (spreadsheets, email, etc.) on Wednesday and blog on Thursday?  What about all the interesting articles that crop up throughout the week?  I can't save all those for one day because then I'm back sitting in front of the computer for 8 straight hours, catching up on the week's events.  Then I'm out of commission for a few days, everything backs up, and it's right back

OK, I've realized that as nerdy as it sounds, I think I AM going to have to actually make a schedule for my virtual life and try to stick to it.

Wow.  Congratulations to anyone who made it all the way through this.  Believe it or not, this started out as a book review.  Ha!  All this stuff has been going around in my head for a long time now, but actually sitting down and putting into words helps me think through it.  Thanks, and I'm sorry.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

June 2010 Vacation Cont'd: Yosemite-Day Two, Part Two: Mostly Waterfalls

After we left the Mariposa Grove, we headed back toward Yosemite Valley so that we could take the same pictures that at least 800,000 other people probably took that day!  But, hey, it's worth taking, especially when you have a beautiful clear day like we did.  This is the Tunnel View...view.

That's El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall on the right, and Half Dome tucked away in the back.

Driving from Tunnel View back into Yosemite Valley, we saw a bear.
Hello, Mr. Bear!

And a bunch of other stunning sights...most of them waterfalls, apparently.  
Ribbon Fall from Southside Dr.

Bridalveil Fall from Southside Dr.

Yosemite Falls (Upper and Lower) (and lots of mosquitos) from Southside Dr.

Yosemite Falls from Lower Yosemite Fall Trail

Lower Yosemite Fall

Yosemite Creek

My "This is beautiful, but I'm about ready to go." face.

I don't think we got any pictures of Horsetail Fall, but if it had looked this this, we definitely would have! Wow.

And that concludes the Yosemite portion of our summer vacation.  From here we spent the night back in Mariposa, then got on the road to Sacremento to catch our return flight to HNL.  For a trip that was largely unlplanned, this turned out to be a great vacation. 
(If you're like me, you'll go crazy combing through this post, trying to figure out what point D corresponds to.  It doesn't correspond to anything.  I just had to put that in there as a waypoint to get my route to come out correctly.  I apologize for any distress this might have caused!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-July 2011

Well, somehow I managed to completely miss last month's GBBD.  I don't know what happened--it just went right past me without even stopping to say hi.  I waved at it and everything, but it was gone; it wasn't going to turn around just for little ol' me.  But here I am today, and here it is, so here we go!

First, my miniature rose, which hasn't bloomed in months, finally made an appearance just in time for today's photo shoot!

I was surprised to see my bleeding heart, Clerodendrum thomsonae, preparing to bloom a few days ago since just a few days before that, I was thinking about pruning it back pretty severely.  Maybe it picked up on my mood and decided it had better get it in gear before it got cut back to a nub.

This belongs to my purple plant that I don't know the name of, you know the one that I watched unfold from a kidney bean.

As always, my golden shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea.  Or as my young friend Abbi would say, SHRIMP PLANT!  (That's a play on the enthusiasm she expressed for the shrimp trucks when her family was out here on vacation.  Any time the topic of meal time came up, Abbi would interject her opinion, which was always, "SHRIMP TRUCK!")

I think my ice blue plumbago is blooming like it has never bloomed before, perhaps because I haven't attacked it and cut it back to a nub lately.

My intensely blue lobelia continues to gain ground amongst the Sweet Alyssum in my lemon tree pot.  

My crape myrtle, which only blooms once a year, showed up right on time for Bloom Day as well.  I thought it was blooming early this year, but it turns out, it was just blooming late last year.  July seems to be its normal bloom time.  

In a thoughtful effort of color coordination, these volunteer snapdragons put themselves in the same pot as my crape myrtle.  Didn't they do a nice job?

More lobelia.  Man is it hard to get this color to show up accurately!  Anybody have any tips?

I don't know what is going on with my Agapanthus, but apparently it's been going on for a while now.  See the weird little collection of buds below the main group?  Below, you can also see a couple tiny little buds sticking out about half-way down the stem.  What is that? 

Of all my most recent acquisitions, my hardy ice plant seems to be holding on the best. 

Peeking out from the middle of all those leaves, watching over everything from the top of our rock wall is the yellow flower of my variegated hau, Hibiscus tiliaceus.

Thanks for joining me on this fine July day!  To see what else is blooming around the world, please visit our host, Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens.